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Budget Resolutions

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:26 pm on 16th March 2020.

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Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Fair Work and Employment) 8:26 pm, 16th March 2020

I thank Martin Vickers for his generosity in giving me those 33 seconds.

It is becoming clear that this will be the first Budget of this financial year. I do not mean that as any criticism of those on the Treasury Bench, but it is clear that events are moving fast. The Government will want to introduce emergency legislation and may seek emergency powers, and it is clear that even the Budget announced last week has already been overtaken by events. However, let me make couple of remarks about it.

First, we will have a wider debate about the loan charge on Thursday, but I was disappointed that there were no more concessions for those caught up in that scandal. It amazes me that people who were caught up in it, rather than those directly responsible for it, are being chased for money. I hope the Government will also be a bit more specific about the measures they want to introduce to tackle the promotion of tax avoidance. I am not the only Member who is concerned about the reduction in staff at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs over the past 10 years.

Secondly, the Government committed during the election campaign to maintaining the free TV licence. Given that we are in a period where the main source of information for many people, particularly the elderly and those who live on their own, is television, the Government need to move quickly to take back control of that power from the BBC and give it back to the Department for Work and Pensions and maintain the free TV licence. Over the next few weeks and months, elderly people will need that box in the corner of their living room to get vital information on tackling coronavirus.